DUP does not expect Northern Ireland deal by Christmas – spokesperson

BELFAST (Reuters) – Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party does not expect to reach a deal with London to secure its return to the power-sharing government by Christmas, a spokesperson for the region’s largest pro-British party said on Monday.

British officials are due to resume talks with local parties on Monday on how to boost Northern Ireland’s strained budget, with an acceptable package seen as one of the prerequisites for the DUP to consider returning to devolved government.

But any hope of restoring the mandatory devolved coalition – a centrepiece of the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement that ended three decades of sectarian bloodshed – also hinges on parallel talks between the DUP and the British government over post-Brexit trade rules.

The DUP collapsed the Stormont Assembly in February 2022 in protest at Britain’s attempts to settle post-Brexit trade rules for the region, which shares a land border with EU member Ireland.

A spokesperson for the DUP told Reuters that the party does not expect a deal before Christmas, adding that any decision would be “condition led” and the conditions required have not yet been met.

Britain’s Northern Ireland Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said in a statement on Monday that he looked forward to discussing the final details of the budget package with Northern Ireland’s five main parties over the coming days.

(Reporting by Amanda Ferguson, writing by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Kate Holton)